Monday, September 15, 2014

VADM Colbert's legacy to the Naval War College

You don’t see many vice admirals walking around wearing hard hats…..but then again, VADM Richard G. Colbert liked to do things his own way. Upon his appointment as the 35th President of the Naval War College in 1968, Colbert set about modernizing the College by changing the curriculum, founding the Naval Staff College for foreign officers, establishing the Naval War College Foundation, and beginning construction of three new academic buildings. He wore this hard hat at the ground breaking ceremony for Spruance, Conolly, and Hewitt Halls in 1970. This expansion allowed the College to increase its student enrollment which in turn made it possible for more line officers to attend.

VADM Richard G. Colbert, oil on canvas by Anthony Sarro
Colbert’s interest in international cooperation among senior naval leaders led him to found another program that is still with us today. This week, the College is preparing to kick off the 21st International Seapower Symposium. Begun in 1969 and held every two years since (last year’s Symposium was postponed due to the government shutdown), the ISS fosters greater cooperation among the world’s naval powers by bringing together officers and diplomats from all over the world to discuss issues that affect the security of maritime nations. It was one of several long-range projects that VADM Colbert initiated to shift the Naval War College’s focus to a more outward-looking, international program that emphasized common interests among the navies of the free world.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

New Arrival: Doll House of Quarters AA

Like most museums, people frequently contact us about donating items to our collection. Every once in a while, we get a piece of history that is so unique we just have to share some pictures with you!

VADM John A. Baldwin, Jr. served as the President of the Naval War College from 1986-87. His wife, Leslie, enjoyed making doll house furniture and hired a modeler to make this beautiful model of the President's House, also known as Quarters AA. The house is approximately 53 inches long and includes the main building as well as the two wings on either end. Although there is no furniture, the interior does feature two fireplaces, finished windows, curtains and wallpaper in some of the rooms. The interior walls are removable and can be configured in many different ways.

Before we put the house on display, we asked Alexandra Allardt of ArtCare Resources to come in and give the house a little polishing up to make all the details really stand out. We think she did a great job and are looking forward to putting this one-of-a-kind artifact on exhibit soon!

To see the full albums of photos, visit us on Facebook at

Friday, June 20, 2014

Artifact Spotlight: "On Target"

Continuing our selection of artwork from Fire and Ice: Combat Art from the Korean War, we present a print of the cruiser USS Los Angeles (CA-135) by Herbert C. Hahn.

Los Angeles arrived off the coast of South Korea in May 1951 to serve as the flagship for Cruiser Division 5 under the command of Rear Admiral Arleigh A. Burke. Her guns were employed in shelling enemy coastal positions for the next six months. In December, Los Angeles returned to the United States for overhaul and training. She deployed to Korea a second time in October 1952 and immediately went into action shelling enemy bunkers and observation posts near Koji-ni. Gunfire support missions typically involved little danger to the ship since her guns had sufficient range to allow her to remain well off shore, but in April 1953 she received minor damage from a North Korean shore battery. Los Angeles continued operating in the area until the end of the month and then returned to her home port of Long Beach, California.

Fire and Ice: Combat Art from the Korean War is on display at the Naval War College Museum through December 30th.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Artifact Spotlight: Dying Banshee, 1953

This week we are proud to announce the opening of a new exhibit on loan from the Navy Art Collection. Fire and Ice: Combat Art from the Korean War features the work of Hugh Cabot and Herbert C. Hahn, the two official Navy combat artists whose work constitutes part of the visual record of the war from 1950-1953.

The first piece featured in our artifact spotlight is Dying Banshee, painted by Herbert C. Hahn in 1953. Hahn was a Navy reservist who was called to active duty when the Korean War broke out. He was assigned to USS Boxer (CV-21) as a photographer, but during his spare time he enjoyed making drawings of the ship and its crew as they went about their daily routines. His work was so good that Boxer's officers started taking notice. Word of his talent traveled all the way up the chain of command until it reached the Secretary of the Navy, Francis P. Matthews. Hahn was soon reassigned to the Public Information Office in Tokyo as a combat artist. He spent the rest of the war documenting the action on land and at sea.

The F2H Banshee was a single-seat, carrier-based fighter that was introduced in 1948. After the small North Korean air force was destroyed in the first few weeks of the war, many fighters like the Banshee were pressed into service as ground attack aircraft. Flown by U.S. Navy and Marine Corps pilots, Banshees attacked enemy troop concentrations and performed photo reconnaissance missions. However, flying low to the ground was dangerous. The Banshee pilot in this watercolor is struggling to gain altitude in order to eject after being hit by anti-aircraft fire.

Fire and Ice: Combat Art from the Korean War is on display at the Naval War College Museum through December 30th.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Artifact Spotlight: Ship Model of USS Minnesota

- Samantha Broghamer, Curatorial Intern

USS Minnesota was utilized for a variety of purposes during her nearly half century of service in the United States Navy.  The steam frigate was launched in 1855 and first made headlines when she set sail for East Asia in 1857 carrying the Ambassador to China, William B. Reed.  Minnesota  was decommissioned upon her return to the United States two years later. She was not out of action for very long, however, returning to the active rolls at the start of the Civil War in 1861 and becoming the flagship of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron. Minnesota is most famous for her role at the Battle of Hampton Roads where she witnessed the first clash between two ironclad warships, USS Monitor and CSS Virginia. After the war, she cruised with midshipmen to Europe before being decommissioned at the New York Navy Yard in 1868. Minnesota remained decommissioned until 1875, when she was sent to Newport, RI, and transformed into a gunnery and sail training ship for naval apprentices. Designated a Naval Apprentice Ship, she was placed under the command of Rear Admiral Stephen B. Luce from 1877-1881.
Prior to the establishment of a viable training system for enlisted men, sailors were not held in very high regard by most Americans. In an attempt to professionalize the enlisted force, Congress passed a law in 1837 to establish a training program for young men ages 13-18. The program was not explained very well to the American public, though, and many young men enlisted under the mistaken impression that they would ultimately receive appointments as midshipmen. The tragic 1842 mutiny on board USS Somers, a training ship, resulted in the hanging of two enlisted sailors and one midshipman. Public outrage over this incident brought a halt to the apprentice training system for over twenty years. It was briefly revived at the end of the Civil War, but lost support from Congress by 1868 when it became apparent that many enlistees still viewed the program as a shortcut to obtaining an officer’s commission.
Tension between the United States and Spain in 1873 produced fresh interest in a formal naval training program. Under the command of Rear Admiral Luce, Minnesota was administered as a Naval Apprentice Ship at the Naval Station in Newport, RI. The new Naval Apprentice program was designed for young men ages 15-18. Apprentices spent one year studying seamanship, gunnery, navigation, reading, writing and arithmetic. The program was designed to develop a disciplined enlisted crew who would complement the equally well-trained and educated officer corps. By 1889, the Naval Apprentice training system had grown into a training squadron formed around the USS Minnesota.
This model of USS Minnesota was custom built for the Naval War College Museum and depicts the vessel during its period of service as an Apprentice ship. The hull bottom is fully sheathed with individual copper plates. The model is also fully rigged and includes all appropriate deck gear, armament, fittings, and even a retractable funnel! If you have a chance to come to the Museum, make sure to take a moment to admire this beautiful work of craftsmanship in the Naval Station Newport exhibit on the second deck.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Artifact Spotlight: War of 1812 snuff boxes

- Samantha Broghamer, Curatorial Intern
Last year, the museum purchased two early nineteenth-century snuff boxes that were produced to commemorate important American naval victories during the War of 1812. The engraved boxes feature a battle on the Great Lakes and an encounter between frigates on the open ocean, conveniently illustrating the different theaters in which the Navy operated during the war. Furthermore, both battles have a connection to Newport.

Snuff, made from ground or pulverized tobacco leaves, is a smokeless tobacco that is inhaled or “snuffed” into the nasal cavity. Snuff-taking originated in the Americas and became commonplace among men throughout the Western world by the seventeenth century. Quality snuff boxes are equipped with airtight lids in order to keep the tobacco leaves dry and fresh. Men of all ages and social classes used boxes like these when snuff-taking was in vogue.

The first snuff box commemorates the capture of the frigate HMS Macedonian by USS United States off the Azores on 25 October 1812. The inscription reads: “THE GLORIOUS VICTORY, Achieved in the short space of Seventeen Minutes by the American Frigate UNITED STATES Commanded by Commodore DECATUR over the British Frigate MACEDONIA Mounting Forty nine guns.” Under the command of Captain Stephen Decatur, the captured British ship arrived at Newport on 6 December 1812 where it became a welcome addition to the U.S. Navy as the re-commissioned USS Macedonian. Master Commandant Oliver Hazard Perry, a Newport native, took charge of the vessel upon her arrival.

Perry is most noted for his role as the commander of the American fleet at the Battle of Lake Erie, arguably the most significant naval battle of the War of 1812. The inscription on the second snuff box reads, “Com. PERRY Capturing the whole of the British fleet on Lake Erie, Sept. 10, 1813.” Perry’s flagship, USS Lawrence, took a terrific pounding from British guns at the start of the battle and suffered 80% casualties among the crew. Amidst heavy gunfire, Perry transferred his flag to USS Niagara and proceeded to break through the enemy line. For the first time in history, an entire British naval squadron surrendered. Perry was involved in nine other military actions on Lake Erie during the course of the war. He became known as the “Hero of Lake Erie” and went on to receive a Congressional Gold Medal for his service. A version of his famous report to the Secretary of the Navy is on the bottom: “It has pleased the Almighty to give to the arms of the United States a signal victory...

These snuff boxes were recently put on display in conjunction with the bicentennial of the War of 1812. They can currently be viewed in the main gallery on the first deck immediately after entering the museum.

Museum purchase with Naval War College Foundation Funds

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Chester W. Nimitz's commission in the United States Navy

Since 2 February is the 107th anniversary of Chester W. Nimitz’s commissioning as an ensign in the United States Navy, it is the perfect time to resume our artifact spotlight posts by showcasing this document. The Naval War College Library’s Naval Historical Collection, a magnificent archive of both institutional and U.S. Navy history, holds the commissioning certificate which was signed by President Theodore Roosevelt. Rising to the rank of Fleet Admiral as Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet during World War II and to the position of Chief of Naval Operations after the war, Nimitz was a gifted strategist with a deep appreciation for the Naval War College.

Born in Fredericksburg, Texas, Chester W. Nimitz (1885-1966) graduated from the United States Naval Academy’s class of 1905. His first orders as a passed midshipman were to report to the battleship USS Ohio (BB-12), bound for the Far East as flagship of the U.S. Asiatic Fleet. Ohio’s presence on station coincided with the Russo-Japanese War and the expanding naval power of the Japanese Empire. The Japanese capture of Port Arthur and naval victory at the battle of Tsushima forced Russia to seek mediation from the United States. President Roosevelt negotiated the treaty at the Portsmouth Naval Ship Yard later that year. The president was a naval historian, former assistant Secretary of the Navy, proponent of Alfred Thayer Mahan’s lectures on naval strategy, and great supporter of the Naval War College as well.

Several months after arbitrating treaty terms with Russia and Japan, TR signed the commission of the officer perhaps most responsible for achieving victory in the naval war in the Pacific during World War II. Receiving command of the U.S. the gunboat Panay, Nimitz continued to cruise the Philippines gaining valuable experience in Pacific waters.

Commander Nimitz was ordered to the Naval War College in 1922. He famously credited his time in Newport as preparing him for wartime command more than any other experience. Of course, the naval war games conducted by Nimitz and his classmates prepared these future leaders for the logistical requirements, strategy, and tactics necessary to achieve victory in a war with Japan.

It is clear from the note Nimitz penned on the bottom of this certificate, donated in 1961, that he valued the Naval War College. Nimitz famously recalled in 1960 that, “The war with Japan had been reenacted in the game rooms at the Naval War College by so many people, and in so many ways, that nothing that happened during the war was a surprise…absolutely nothing except the kamikaze tactics at the end of the war; we had not visualized these.”

It is impossible to know why the admiral chose to donate this particular piece of his history to the college but it is certainly telling that he chose a commission signed by the Commander in Chief most closely associated with the success of Naval War College in its early ears.

On loan from the Naval Historical Collection